Six years ago, club member Peter J Gordon tipped the scales at 18 stones. Now he is a keen ultra runner and a lot lighter and fitter.
Peter has been with the club for five years and has to plan his exercise schedule around the full-time care of his 11-year-old son Roddy, who is non-verbal autistic.
When he first joined GTC he was keen to compete in triathlons. He said: “I had managed to lose a bit of weight and get a bit fitter by walking. I then took up running.
“But I remember watching Ironman Kona on-line and I was amazed at the athleticism and fitness of the athletes across all ages and sizes of people.
“Although I could see there was a clear competitive element to the triathlons it was also evident that many different types of people do it to challenge themselves and push their own limits. This attracted me to the sport.”
At first, Peter was determined to train for a triathlon but he found that swimming was a barrier. He explains: “At a young age I nearly drowned and I still panic about it, which frustrates me. Instead I started to focus on running and started doing 10k races. The more I ran the more I wanted to challenge myself so I moved on to doing ultra distance events.”
Peter had enjoyed running as a child. He was a sprinter from the age of 14 to 18 with Perth Strathtay Harriers.
Now he is a regular participant at the GTC running sessions and credits the coaches with helping him to develop his technique and pacing.
He said: “The coaches are very encouraging. This has been important to me and has given me confidence and some courage to go into the pain barrier.
“I also recall the drills and interval training from when I was a teenager and I have enjoyed coming back to it again.
“I am now taking minutes of my 10k PBs and hours off my ultra times.”
Running longer and longer
Peter’s favourite events are longer distance and preferably with a good view. He says: “I find the trails more comfortable than road running although many of the races have short segments of road or firmer terrain.
“Earlier this year I was delighted to get a PB for 50km when I did the John Muir Way Ultra.
“A couple of weeks ago, I attempted the West Highland Way Challenge Race and got as far as 81 miles to Kinlochleven. It was my first race at that distance and I had issues with nutrition and feeling nauseated.
“I’ll work on those things over the coming year and I can’t wait until next year to do it again and make it to the end line at Fort William.”
“Later this year I hope to run a faster time at the Dunoon 55km Ultra, which takes place in October. The first one was held last year and it was a challenging race. It’s a trail run with amazing views. I want to improve my time and will be increasing my hill training as it’s a hilly route.”
When the going gets tough
Peter has a counting technique to help with tough training sessions. He says: “I count from 1 to 50 over and over or sing silly songs in my head if I am struggling with a long or tough training run.
“If I do ultras and have drop bags I always put something tasty to eat like Nutella with breadsticks or something like Reese’s pieces to encourage me to get to that checkpoint.”
Despite his swimming difficulties, Peter still has an ambition to do a triathlon. He would most like to finish an Ironman distance. In the meantime, he is focusing on his running and has a lifetime ambition to finish the 95-mile WHW Race in less than 24 hours.
Peter’s three top tips
No matter what your fitness level just get out and get moving. You need to start somewhere.
Join a tri club. GTC has given me lots of confidence and opportunities not just to improve my own skills but to learn from others and participate in marshalling events that they’ve organised.
Don’t neglect strength training. Either join a gym or do exercises at home that develop your core and physical strength. Classes like Pilates can help with flexibility and stretching so try it out, too. All these things help to reduce your risk of injury as your body becomes more supple.